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VanMoof

This Dutch Manufacturer Will Track Down Your Stolen Bike—and If They Can't, They'll Replace It for Free

VanMoof
VanMoof

Typically, the search process for a missing bike involves police reports and posters. But as Fast Company reports, Dutch high-end bike manufacturer VanMoof has developed an innovative tracking process to help customers hunt down stolen rides.

In late 2015, VanMoof debuted the SmartBike, a smartphone-connected bike with a touch-activated e-lock and a GSM tracking device embedded in the frame. If thieves bypass the lock, the tracking device allows VanMoof to keep tabs on the bike’s movements with a special tracking dashboard.

Customers report a missing bike to VanMoof via a smartphone app, and agree to pay a $110 “recovery” fee for its return. In turn, the company deploys their secret team of global “bike hunters”—there are two in Amsterdam, one in Berlin, and another in New York—to track down the vehicle. ("Our bike hunters prefer to remain stealth, but I can assure you they're real people," VanMoof co-founder Taco Carlier tells Mental Floss.) If the bike isn’t home safe and sound within two weeks, VanMoof promises to replace it for free.

So far, VanMoof has managed to track down 43 of the 62 reported stolen SmartBikes. Many of them were found parked on the street not far from where they went missing, company operations director Brent van Assen tells Fast Company. In these types of situations, bike hunters secure vehicles with a special lock so the thief can’t transport them elsewhere. They use a lock cutter to break any other bolts or barriers, and bring the recovered bikes back to their offices for the owners to collect.

SmartBikes are also sometimes stolen and moved abroad. "Bike Hunters have been around the world in the past 12 months," Carlier says. "We've calculated that they travelled as far as 30,000 kilometers. They have tracked down stolen VanMoofs in cities such as Casablanca, Amsterdam, New York, Brussels, Gdańsk [in Poland], and Paris."

VanMoof plans to use their tracking data to help law enforcement officials identify bike theft patterns. In the meantime, their service provides peace of mind for potential customers who want to splurge on a fancy bike but are wary of being targeted by thieves. "Our plan is to make our Bike Hunters so famous that bike thieves are too terrified to steal a VanMoof in the first place," Carlier says.

VanMoof is based in Amsterdam, but American customers can visit the company’s Brooklyn, New York outpost, or resale locations in states including Ohio, California, Minnesota, Washington, and Oregon [PDF]. Their bikes with anti-theft technology include the SmartBike (starting at $1100) and the new Electrified S (starting at $2500).

[h/t Fast Company]

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Interactive Chart Tells You How Long It Takes to Get Frostbite
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For many people, winter means dry skin and high heating bills. But if you find yourself outdoors in the right conditions, it can also mean frostbite. Frostbite occurs when the skin and the tissue beneath it freezes, causing pain, loss of sensation, or worse. It's easier to contract than you may think, even if you don't live in the Siberian tundra. To see if frostbite poses a threat where you live, check out this chart spotted by Digg.

The chart, developed by Pooja Gandhi and Adam Crahen using National Weather Service data, looks at three factors: wind speed, air temperature, and time spent outdoors. You can hover your cursor over data-points on the table to see how long you'd need to be exposed to certain wind chills for your skin tissue to freeze. If the wind chill is -22°F, for example (10°F air temperature with 5 mph winds), it would take 31 minutes of being outside before frostbite sets in. You can also look at the time scale above the chart to calculate it a different way. If you bring your cursor to the 40-minute mark, a window will tell that frostbite becomes a risk after exposure to -17°F wind chill for that amount of time. You can play with the interactive table at Tableau Public.

Chart of cold weather conditions.
Adam Crahen, Pooja Gandhi

If you can't avoid being outside in extreme wind and cold, there are a few steps you can take to keep your skin protected. Wear lots of layers, including multiple socks, and wrap your face with a scarf or face mask before venturing into the cold. Also, remember to stay hydrated. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, drinking at least one glass of water before going outside decreases your risk of contracting frostbite.

[h/t Digg]

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Flurry Road: 5 Tips for Safe Driving on Winter Roads
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For drivers in the Upper Midwest, traveling during the winter can range from slightly unsettling to deadly. Between 2011 and 2015, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Auto Insurance Center, an average of 800 fatalities occurred annually as a result of weather-related accidents. Icy roads, poor visibility, and other factors can make cold-weather commuting a dicey proposition.

While we can’t control the weather (yet), we can increase our odds of navigating slush-filled roadways successfully. Mental Floss spoke with American Automobile Association (AAA) driving education expert William Van Tassel, Ph.D., for some key tips on how to get your winter driving in gear.

1. GATHER SUPPLIES.

Before you even start your car up for a trip through inclement weather, Van Tassel recommends you pack a worst-case scenario trunk full of supplies. “In case of emergency, you want things on board like water, a blanket, a flashlight, gloves, and kitty litter,” he says. (That last one is for traction in case you get stuck in a snowbank.) You should also have road flares, a shovel, an ice scraper, and a fully-charged cell phone to call for assistance if needed.

2. SLOW DOWN.

Posted speed limit signs assume you’re driving on clear and clean roadways. If snow or ice has accumulated, you need to adjust your speed accordingly. “In slick conditions, tires lose a lot of traction,” Van Tassel says. “You should be cutting your speed down by half or more.” Unfortunately, a lot of people learn this the hard way. “After a snowstorm, we’ll see more crashes on day one than days two or three.”

Van Tassel also cautions to avoid becoming overconfident on snow tires. While they provide better traction in bad weather, it’s not license to speed up.

3. MAINTAIN A SAFE DISTANCE FROM OTHER CARS.

You should be doing this regardless, but bad weather makes it even more crucial. Keep your vehicle at a safe distance from cars behind, in front, and off to the sides, as well as away from pedestrians or cyclists. If you need to brake suddenly, you need time—and space—to avoid a collision. “You really want more space in front,” Van Tassel says. Try to stay between seven and 10 seconds behind the vehicle ahead. That means seeing a landmark and then counting down until you pass the same marker. If you’re only a few seconds behind, you’re too close.

4. DON’T STEER INTO SKIDS.

“That was an old rule of thumb,” Van Tassel says. “The problem is, by the time I remember to steer into a skid, I’m already in a ditch.” If you feel your vehicle sliding, it’s better to steer in the direction you want to go. “You’ll drive where you look, so don’t look at a telephone pole.”

To help maintain control of the car, you want to focus on doing one thing at a time. “If you’re going through a turn, brake, finish braking, then turn. Don’t brake and turn at the same time.”

5. KEEP YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON.

Yep, even in broad daylight. Bad weather limits visibility, and headlights allow both you and your fellow drivers to orient a vehicle. “You’re twice as visible to other drivers that way,” Van Tassel says. “When people can see you, they can avoid you.”

Van Tassel also recommends that drivers avoid relying on fancy car technology to keep them safe. While blind spot monitoring and lane changing sensors are useful, they’re not there so you can zone out. “The tech is there to back you up if you need it. Drive the car, but don’t rely on those things,” he says.

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